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Holiday Humor for Hilarity Hunters

By Rick Pender · December 16th, 2013 · Onstage
klingonDon Volpenheim as SQuja', Klingon Christmas Carol by Hugo West Theatricals - Photo: Mikki Schaffner

Ready to move beyond the predictable in your pursuit of holiday theater? Three shows offer varied choices. A Klingon Christmas Carol gets its local premiere by Hugo West Theatricals at the Art Academy of Cincinnati (1212 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine) through Dec. 22. If you know Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic, you’ll find yourself on familiar ground — sort of. But instead of Scrooge, it’s “SQuja’,” and you’re not in Victorian England but on the planet, “Qo’noS,” home world of Star Trek’s fierce race of lusty warriors.

Over the course of several movies and subsequent series, the villainous Klingons of the first Star Trek TV series morphed into complex characters with a savage but honor-driven culture and a complex language. Based on the premise that Dickens’ story actually originated on Qo’noS, SQuja’s tale is about a spineless, selfish Klingon. (For Star Trek adherents, the fact that SQuja’ is accused of being a money-grubbing Ferengi succinctly defines his character.) On the “Feast of the Long Night,” he’s reformed by three visits from Kahless, Klingons’ legendary first emperor.

This script originated in Chicago where it was translated into “tlhingan Hol,” the Klingon language. That’s how it’s performed — with English supertitles and a Vulcan narrator, pointy ears and all. The 14-actor cast play multiple roles, all wearing wrinkled brow foreheads and unruly mops of hair. Don Volpenheim is the weak-willed SQuja’, David Dreith is hardworking Quachit (you’d recognize him as Bob Cratchit), father of timHom (aka Tiny Tim, a Muppet-styled puppet humorously operated by Eileen Earnest).

If you’ve enjoyed Star Trek, you might like A Klingon Christmas Carol. Directed by Michael Hall, it’s told swiftly (aided by Lauren Carr’s thoroughly deadpan Vulcan narrator) and with many references and in jokes that will resonate with fans.

Costuming and makeup are well done; staging is simple if rather clunky with chairs and tables constantly being moved on and off the makeshift stage at the Art Academy. (Through Dec. 22; $20 at the door or here.)

If Star Trek is not your cup of tea, just a block south of the Art Academy at Know Theatre you’ll find New Edgecliff Theatre’s The 12 Dates of Christmas. It’s a remount of NET’s 2012 holiday show, again featuring Annie Kalahurka as Mary, a New York actress whose chipper view of the holidays is ruined when she sees her fiancé kissing a woman on national TV during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The one-woman show recounts Mary’s trajectory through a year of false romantic starts, a few guys with potential and many more with “What were you thinking?” written all over them. Kalahurka plays them all: In addition to the central character, she recreates Mary’s oppressive matchmaking aunt, her nervously worried mother and a cavalcade of bad dates (chronicled by ornaments she hangs on a tree). Along the way, she acts in productions of Macbeth and A Christmas Carol (playing Christmas Past) adding more humor with theatrical references. Mary speaks in a colorful, contemporary way (not appropriate for kids), but Kalahurka’s charming performance makes 12 Dates a truly entertaining holiday outing. (Through Dec. 21; $25.25; 513-621-2787.)

For some more familiar tales that generate a ton of of adult laughs, check out Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and then some). As the title implies, this show (back for its eighth year) references everything from A Christmas Carol to the Grinch, with stops for Charlie Brown, It’s a Wonderful Life, Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph (who’s translated into Gustav, the green-nosed “reingoat”), plus odd holiday traditions from around the world.

The 2012 cast is back for 2013, directed again by Jeremy Dubin. Miranda McGee uses her authentic Australian accent and a can of Foster’s to play a drunk Santa who spars with the cast and tickles audience members. Sara Clark is a Dickens stickler who tries valiantly to get Scrooge’s story told. Justin McCombs embodies childish glee, silly innocence and over-the-top physicality (his twisted Frosty is a highlight). And Billy Chace mashes up Father Christmas with a lascivious lounge lizard overflowing with cocktail-laced holiday spirit. Individually they’re funny; together they’re a laugh riot.

Their two-hour performance wraps up with a high-speed ramble through “every Christmas carol ever sung — and then some.” Even if you’ve seen this show before, it’s worth a return trip for new topical references: this year Miley Cyrus’ “twerking” gets a workout, and there’s a poke or two at the streetcar debacle. (This one sells out; a few extra performances have been added through Dec. 29; $28; 513-381-2273, x 1)

CONTACT RICK PENDER: rpender@citybeat.com



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